At The Noodle Bar

Andrea Strong has the market on New York restaurant openings and closings and I defer to her frequently when I want to read up on New York restaurant gossip. It was on her site, in fact, that I first read about Noodle Bar. She wrote: “Quentin Dante, who opened and closed Yumcha with enough drama for a dozen reality shows, has opened up Noodle Shop on Carmine Street, just around the corner from his ill-fated pan-Asian spot.” Carmine Street? That’s my favorite haunt in the Village for delicious eats. I commanded James and Stella to meet me there before seeing “Blue Velvet” at Film Forum last night.

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James and Stella were good candidates for visiting Noodle Bar. James likes noodles and Stella likes bars. Just kidding, Stella doesn’t like bars. She is a vegetarian, though, and noodle bars traditionally have good options for veggies like Stella.

One option that wasn’t good for her was the option that James and I started with: “Chili Fried Squid / Lime Maple Glaze, Fresh Chili.”

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I watched a woman remove the calamari from a silver canister, dust it with flour and place it into a funnel-like colander apparatus which she dipped into sizzling oil. Stella stared with disdain at the slimy pieces of squid. This look of suspicion remained as James and I devoured the finished product.

“This is good,” declared James.

“Yes,” I agreed, eagerly lifting and dipping the calamari pieces.

“I’m so hungry,” said Stella.

“Eat one,” I urged. “A squid doesn’t have feelings. It tastes like a rubber band.”

But Stella wouldn’t have it. Since I had it, here’s what I liked best about the calamari appetizer: it was well seasoned (salty and spicy) and the dipping sauce was sweet with tiny depth-charges of heat by way of the pepper. A well done overture.

What’s fun about eating at Noodle Bar is that it’s an actual bar: you can watch them cook your food. While James and I devoured fried squid, we watched the chef manipulate our noodles in his wok.

You can’t really tell from that video, but that wok was mad hot. When he lifted it off the heat, flames shot up towards the ceiling. This is what we call cooking with heat.

James and I, kindred spirits that we are, both had the same entree: “Coconut Shrimp and Spicy Rice Noodle/ Egg, Sprouts, Scallions.”

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I wish I could tell you I loved it as much as the appetizer, but I didn’t. It’s not that it wasn’t good–it was well made–but I was deceived. I asked the waiter how spicy it was when I ordered it and he said: “Not very spicy.” When waiters say this to me I usually trust them and I’ve never had a problem. But here, I found the noodles super spicy: spicier than any noodles I’d ever attempted before in my history of eating. It made the dish unpleasantly painful, like climbing an electronic fence with no destination in mind. If the heat served some larger Epicurean purpose, I’d go with it, but as it was it was pain for pain’s sake. And despite what you might hear, I ain’t no masochist.

Stella was equally disgruntled with her entree: “Smoked and Silken Tofu with azuki beans / lo mein.” Said Stella: “This tastes like ramen I could make at home.”

Yet, despite these grievances, I feel like Noodle Bar is a place you have to work with: maybe there are dishes that are more my speed that I haven’t discovered yet. I liked the feel of the place; I liked the mastery of the wok man and I liked the spirit of the menu. I will give it another go, maybe when I turn over a new leaf and decide to enjoy pain. You bring the chiles, Noodle Bar, I’ll bring the nipple clamps.

10 comments

  1. Adam – I’ve been a lurker for a few years now … … yes I confess ! I am addicted to your blog. In fact I love your blog. I live in exile – on Hong Kong Island away from my native Manhattan Island. You bring me home. Keep it up. Gee, I feel so awkward introducing myself like this. Never did this kind of think before. Saw you are a Soprano fan. And since you’ve been doing the bulk of sharing in this relationship thought I’d introduce you to the Sopranowitz’s. A parody clip. Heh – someone had to do it. I owe you tons of material. Hope you enjoy it. I end this message with many thanks to you.

    zai jian!

    Jen

    http://www.ifilm.com/ifilmdetail/1388896?htv=12

  2. Adam,

    I was directed to your blog by a friend…are we NYU food bloggers together? Let’s unite! =)

    Have you been to the noodle place on 7th and Bowery (Menkui Tei, I think it’s called)? Mostly ramen, and totally authentic and awesome.

    Great post! I love your video clips.

  3. I used to like calamari ever since I was introduced to it at an upscale restaurant called Timothy’s in Texarkana. (Yes I said Texarkana) It was served in this great peanut/ginger/soy sauce with delicious bits of peanut.

    However the last time I had it, or any kind of calamari, was when they decided to be “witty” or “creative” and fried up whole squid minus the head mixed with the normal squid circles. One of the whole squidlings ALMOST touched my lip before I realized there were dangling tentacle thingies in front of my face.

    To protest the fact that they did this, I took a spare plate and stripped off all the breading.. leaving the naked purplish skin showing and plopped him down on it. I wish I had my camera with me.

  4. been to noodle bar once. the asian panini sandwich was suprisingly and FRIGHTENINGLY good. asian seasoned pork, asian spam, swiss cheese, just the right amount of kimchi for taste and some delish mystery spread (kinda like spicy mayo or some hybrid of sauces thereof). absolutely worth going back for.

  5. Yo, when go to Chinese place, please order Chinese food–not Italy, Thai or Nippon food.

    Go back:

    1) get dumplings; they are best in nyc, including noted chinatown and flushing establishments

    2) ask what vegetable fresh that night then get, chinese broccoli and baby bok choy are always good choice here

    3) must-try is clam in black bean sauce, it very real

    4) for noodle dish, get pork and tomato noodle; or any other noodle in bowl, remember chinese place put in extra thing for u.s. taste, for real dealio plain noodle with no more 2 added best

    4) you really amateur gourmet if don’t know rules by now how to order at chinese place! ;-)

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